Foreclosure Averted, Nashville Symphony Now Faces Tough Labor Talks

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Less than two months after narrowly averting a foreclosure on its concert hall, the Nashville Symphony now faces a difficult round of contract talks with its musicians.

In June, the orchestra put up $35 million of its own assets to keep its hall, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, out of the banks' hands. Its coffers were cleaned out in the process, throwing a hitch into a negotiation that has now dragged on for two months. A meeting is scheduled for Monday, five days after the last contract expired.

The two sides are observing an alleged media blackout, though the Nashville Scene has managed to piece together some details through anonymous sources and leaked internal documents. The newspaper reports that management asked for 30 percent salary cut in its initial offer, slashing the proposed minimum pay from $60,000 to $42,953.40. The offer also stipulated turning 16 of the orchestra's 83 musicians into contract players, who would get a minimum annual salary of $25,056. The pay cuts would be locked in for four years.

Union negotiators flatly rejected the proposal, says the paper. The two sides are more than $1.5 million apart.

Management has agreed to cuts as well. Orchestra CEO Alan Valentine revealed that he and music director Giancarlo Guerrero had both taken 15 percent cuts to their salaries of $381,920 and $471,458 respectively. Senior and middle management salaries shrank 11 percent and four employees were let go, including the orchestra’s longtime personnel manager.

The orchestra had owed more than $80 million in debt related to the construction of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. It was only through the assist of a wealthy board member that the orchestra was able to reach a last-minute deal to pay off its lenders and save the hall. The symphony's next performance is scheduled for Sept. 5.